This chapter describes how Al-Shabaab started as a small network, piggy-backing on the Sharia courts of Mogadishu to come to power. It describes its roots in former Afghanistan veterans that joined the Islamist Al Ittihad Al Islamiya organisation in the early 1990s, and also highlights how the group was different from the wider organisation: less clanist, more internationalist. It describes how the early network was influenced by the remains of Al-Qaeda’s east African cell, a cell that had little contact with the central Al-Qaeda leadership and that also remained distinct from Al-Shabaab, but influenced them in return. It describes the War on Terror in the early 2000s, with its confusing fronts, that made the early Al-Shabaab network ally with nationalists, Hawiye clanists, but also with the Sharia court movement.
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